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Early Patron—John Gellatly

John Gellatly

John Gellatly (1852–1931) of New York City gave his extensive art collection to the Smithsonian Institution on June 13, 1929. It was moved from New York City to Washington, D.C., on April 30, 1933, and installed in space allotted to the National Gallery of Art in the Smithsonian, U.S. National Museum Building. The installation was formally opened on the evening of June 22, 1933. Unfortunately, Gellatly did not live to see this installation.

An advocate of American contemporaries, John Gellatly was the most important of the museum's early patrons. With his generous gift of 1929, Gellatly put his indelible stamp on the collection through the range and astuteness of his taste. Gellatly, for the most part, was buying with the knowledge that his collection would reside in a major museum. He also bought European, Asian, and ancient art, with the intention of demonstrating the high level of our native art by comparing it with work of other cultures and periods. The non-American art in his collection, however, was heavily weighted toward objets d'art, while paintings dominated the American portion.

Among Gellatly's gifts are the following:

Left: Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel; Center: Winslow Homer, Bear Hunting, Prospect Rock; Right: Albert Pinkham Ryder, With Sloping Mast and Dipping Prow

John Gellatly was devoted to certain artists and purchased large numbers of their works. Both Abbott Thayer and Thomas Dewing were so favored, as were Childe Hassam and John Twachtman; but the palm went to Albert Pinkham Ryder, seventeen of whose haunting paintings came to the museum through the agency of Gellatly. These remarkable groupings remain among the unusual and important features of the collection today.

Pictured top: Irving R. Wiles, John Gellatly, 1930–32, oil, 79 1/8 x 38 1/2 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Irving R. Wiles

Among Gellatly's gifts:
Right: Albert Pinkham Ryder, With Sloping Mast and Dipping Prow, before 1906, oil, 12 x 12 in.

Middle: Winslow Homer, Bear Hunting, Prospect Rock, 1892, watercolor, 13 15/16 x 20 1/16 in.

Left: Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel, about 1889, oil, 36 1/4 x 28 1/8 in.

Source: Adapted from William Kloss. Treasures from the National Museum of American Art, (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985), p. 12. Copyright Smithsonian Institution.